Then Pallas Athena granted
Tydeus' son Diomedes
strength and daring—so the fighter would shine forth
and tower over the Argives and win himself great glory.
She set the man ablaze, his shield and helmet flaming
with tireless fire like the star that flames at harvest,
bathed in the Ocean, rising up to outshine all other stars.
Such fire Athena blazed from Tydides' head and shoulders,
drove him into the center where the masses struggled on.
There was a Trojan,
Dares, a decent, wealthy man,
the god Hephaestus' priest who had bred two sons,
Phegeus and Idaeus, trained for every foray ...
Breaking ranks they rushed ahead in their chariot,
charging Diomedes already dismounted,
rearing up on foot.
They went for each other fast, close range-
Phegeus hurled first, his spear's shadow flew
and over Tydides' left shoulder the tip passed
and never touched his body. Tydides hurled next,
the bronze launched from his hand and not for nothing:
hitting Phegeus' chest between the nipples it pitched him out
behind his team. Idaeus leapt, abandoned the handsome car
but did not dare to stand and defend his dead brother-
and not even so would he have fled his black death
but the god of fire swept him off and saved him,
shrouding the man in night so the old priest
would not be wholly crushed with one son left.
But high-hearted Tydides drove away the team
and gave them to aides to lash both horses back
to the hollow ships. And now despite their courage
the Trojan fighters seeing the two sons of Dares,
one on the run, one dead beside his chariot-
all their hearts were stunned . . .
But Athena, eyes bright, taking Ares in hand,
called the violent god away with: "Ares, Ares,
destroyer of men, reeking blood, stormer of ramparts,
why not let these mortals fight it out for themselves?
Let Zeus give glory to either side he chooses.
We'll stay clear and escape the Father's rage."
And so, luring the
headlong Ares off the lines
Athena sat him down on Scamander's soft, sandy banks
while Argives bent the Trojans back. Each captain
killed his man. First Agamemnon lord of men
spilled the giant Odius, chief of the Halizonians
off his car—the first to fall, as he veered away
the spearhead punched his back between the shoulders,
gouging his flesh and jutting out through his ribs-
he fell with a crash, his armor rang against him.
Idomeneus cut down
Phaestus, Maeonian Borus' son
who shipped to Troy from the good rich earth of Tame.
As he tried to mount behind his team the famous spearman
stabbed a heavy javelin deep in his right shoulder—
he dropped from his war-car, gripped by the hateful dark.
Then as Idomeneus'
henchman stripped the corpse
Menelaus took Scamandrius down with a sharp spear—
Strophius' son, a crack marksman skilled at the hunt.
Artemis taught the man herself to track and kill
wild beasts, whatever breeds in the mountain woods,
but the Huntress showering arrows could not save him now
nor the archer's long shots, his forte in days gone by.
No, now Menelaus the great spearman ran him through,
square between the blades as he fled and raced ahead,
tearing into his flesh, drilling out through his chest
he crashed facedown, his armor clanged against him.
Phereclus—son of Tecton,
son of the blacksmith Harmon-the fighter's hands
had the skill to craft all kinds of complex work
since Pallas Athena loved him most, her protege
who had built Paris his steady, balanced ships,
trim launchers of death, freighted with death
for all of Troy and now for the shipwright too:
what could the man know of all the gods' decrees?
Meriones caught him quickly, running him down hard
and speared him low in the right buttock—the point
pounding under the pelvis, jabbed and pierced the bladder-
he dropped to his knees, screaming, death swirling round him.
Meges killed Pedaeus,
Antenor's son, a bastard boy
but lovely Theano nursed him with close, loving care
like her own children, just to please her husband.
Closing, Meges gave him some close attention too—
the famous spearman struck behind his skull,
just at the neck-cord, the razor spear slicing
straight up through the jaws, cutting away the tongue—
he sank in the dust, teeth clenching the cold bronze.
Eurypylus cut down brave Hypsenor,
son of lofty Dolopion, a man the Trojans made
Scamander's priest and worshipped like a god.
But Euaemon's royal son laid low his son-
Eurypylus, chasing Hypsenor fleeing on before him,
flailed with a sword, slashed the Trojan's shoulder
and lopped away the massive bulk of Hypsenor's arm . . .
the bloody arm dropped to the earth, and red death
came plunging down his eyes, and the strong force of fate.
So they worked away
in the rough assaults, but Diomedes,
which side was the fighter on? You could not tell-
did he rampage now with the Trojans or the Argives?
Down the plain he stormed like a stream in spate,
a routing winter torrent sweeping away the dikes:
the tight, piled dikes can't hold it back any longer,
banks shoring the blooming vineyards cannot curb its course—
a flash flood bursts as the rains from Zeus pour down their power,
acre on acre the well-dug work of farmers crumbling under it-
so under Tydides' force the Trojan columns panicked now,
no standing their ground, massed, packed as they were.
But the shining archer
Pandarus marked him storming
down the plain, smashing the Trojan lines before him.
Quickly he trained his reflex bow on Diomedes
charging straight ahead-he shot! he struck him full
in the right shoulder, under the breastplate's hollow
the ripping point tore deep, shearing its way through,
armor splattered with blood as Pandarus triumphed,
shouting over Tydides wildly, "Move up, attack,
my high-hearted Trojans, lash your stallions!
Look, the Achaean champion's badly wounded—
I shot him down, I swear he won't last long—
if the Archer really sped me here from Lycia!"
but the whizzing arrow had not brought him down.
Diomedes just drew back beside his car and team
and stood there calling Sthenelus, Capaneus' son:
"Quick, Sthenelus. Down from the car, my friend,
pull this wretched arrow from my shoulder!"
from the car, hit the ground
and standing beside him, pulled the tearing arrow
clean on through the wound and blood came shooting out
like a red lance through the supple mesh shirt.
And Diomedes lord of the war cry prayed aloud,
"Hear me, daughter of Zeus whose shield is thunder,
tireless one, Athena! If you ever stood by father
with all your love amidst the blaze of battle,
stand by me--do me a favor now, Athena.
Bring that man into range and let me spear him!
He's wounded me off guard and now he triumphs-
he boasts 1 won't look long on the light of day."
So Tydides prayed
and Athena heard his prayer,
put spring in his limbs, his feet, his fighting hands
and close beside him winged him on with a flight of orders:
"Now take heart, Diomedes, fight it out with the Trojans!
Deep in your chest I've put your father's strength.
He never quaked, that Tydeus, that great horseman-
what force the famous shieldsman used to wield!
Look, I've lifted the mist from off your eyes
that's blurred them up to now—
so you can tell a god from man on sight.
So now if a god comes up to test your mettle,
you must not fight the immortal powers head-on,
all but one of the deathless gods, that is-
if Aphrodite daughter of Zeus slips into battle,
she's the one to stab with your sharp bronze spear!"
Her eyes bright,
Athena soared away and Tydeus' son
went charging back to the front line of champions.
Now, long ablaze as he was to fight the Trojans,
triple the fury seized him-claw-mad as a lion
some shepherd tending woolly flocks in the field
has just grazed, a lion leaping into the fold,
but he hasn't killed him, only spurred his strength
and helpless to beat him off the man scurries for shelter,
leaving his flocks panicked, lost as the ramping beast
mauls them thick-and-fast, piling corpse on corpse
and in one furious bound clears the fenced yard—
so raging Diomedes mauled the Trojans.
he killed Astynous, then Hypiron, a frontline captain.
One he stabbed with a bronze lance above the nipple,
the other his heavy sword hacked at the collarbone,
right on the shoulder, cleaving the whole shoulder
clear of neck and back. And he left them there,
dead, and he made a rush at Abas and Polyidus,
sons of Eurydamas, an aged reader of dreams,
but the old prophet read no dreams for them
when they set out for Troy-Diomedes laid them low
then swung to attack the two sons of Phaenops,
hardy Xanthus and Thoon, both men grown tall
as their father shrank away with wasting age ...
he'd never breed more sons to leave his riches to.
The son of Tydeus killed the two of them on the spot,
he ripped the dear life out of both and left their father
tears and wrenching grief. Now he'd never welcome
his two sons home from war, alive in the flesh,
and distant kin would carve apart their birthright.
Next Diomedes killed
two sons of Dardan Priam
careening on in a single car, Echemmon and Chromius.
As a lion charges cattle, calves and heifers
browsing the deep glades and snaps their necks,
so Tydides pitched them both from the chariot,
gave them a mauling-gave them little choice—
quickly stripped their gear and passed their team
to his men to lash back to the ships.
the lines of fighters now—
but Aeneas marked it all
and oblivious to the rain of spears he waded in,
hunting for Pandarus, hoping to find the archer.
Find him he did, Lycaon's skilled, fearless son,
and went right up and challenged him to his face:
"Pandarus, where's your bow, your winged arrows,
your archer's glory? No Trojan your rival here,
no Lycian can claim to be your better, no—
so up with you now! Lift your hands to Zeus,
you whip an arrow against that man, whoever he is
who routs us, wreaking havoc against us, cutting the legs
from under squads of good brave men. Unless it's a god
who smolders at our troops, enraged at a rite we failed-
when a god's enraged there's thunder at our heads.".
And Lycaon's shining
son took up the challenge:
"Aeneas, counselor of the Trojans armed in bronze,
he looks like Tydeus' son to me in every way-
I know his shield, the hollow eyes of his visor,
his team, I've watched them closely.
And still I could never swear he's not a god ...
but if he's the man I think he is, Tydeus' gallant son,
he rages so with a god beside him-not alone, no-
a god with his shoulders shrouded round in cloud
who deflects my shaft to a less mortal spot.
I had already whipped an arrow into him,
caught him square in the right shoulder too,
just where the breastplate leaves the armpit bare,
and I thought I'd sent him down to the House of Death
but I've still not laid him low. So it is some god rampaging!
And here I am, no chariot, no team to speed me on.
But back in Lycaon's halls are eleven war-cars,
beauties all, fresh from the smith and fire-new
and blankets spread across them. And beside each
a brace of stallions standing poised and pawing,
champing their oats and barley glistening white.
Over and over father, the old spearman Lycaon
urged me, setting out from his well-built halls,
'Take those teams and cars,' he told me, 'mount up,
lead the Trojans into the jolting shocks of battle!'
But would I listen? So much the better if I had ...
I had to spare my teams. They'd never starve for fodder-
crammed with the fighters-bred to eat their fill.
So I left them there, I made it to Troy on foot,
trusting my bows and arrows, and a lot of good
I was to get from them. Already I've let fly
at two of their best men, Diomedes and Menelaus-
I've hit them both, and the blood gushed from both,
direct hits, but I only roused their fury.
What bad luck—
to snatch this curved bow off its peg that day
I marched my Trojans hard to your lovely town of Troy,
to please Prince Hector. But if I get home again
and set my eyes on my native land, my wife
and my fine house with the high vaulting roof,
let some stranger cut my head off then and there
if I don't smash this bow and fling it in the fire-
the gear I packed is worthless as the wind."
Aeneas the Trojan
captain checked him sharply:
"No talk of turning for home! No turning the tide
till we wheel and face this man with team and car
and fight it out with weapons hand-to-hand.
Come, up with you now, climb aboard my chariot!
So you can see the breed of Tros's team, their flair
for their own terrain as they gallop back and forth,
one moment in flight, the next in hot pursuit.
They'll sweep us back to the city, back to safety
if Zeus hands Tydeus' son the glory once again.
Quick, take up the whip and glittering reins!
I'll dismount from the car and fight on foot-
or you engage the man and leave the team to me."
The shining son of
Lycaon made the choice:
"Take upy the reins yourself, Aeneas. Do-
they're your team, they'll haul your curving chariot
so much better under the driver they know best
if we have to beat retreat from Diomedes.
God forbid they panic, skittish with fear,
buck and never pull us out of the fighting,
missing your own voice as Tydeus' son attacks-
he'll kill us both and drive them off as prizes.
So drive them yourself, your chariot and your team
and let him charge—I'll take him on with a sharp spear."
Both men agreed,
boarding the blazoned chariot,
wildly heading their racers at Diomedes now.
Capaneus' good son Sthenelus saw them coming
and quickly alerted Diomedes, warnings flying:
"Tydides, joy of my heart, dear comrade, look!
I see two men and they're bearing down to fight you!
Their power's enormous—one's a master archer,
Pandarus, son of Lycaon, so he boasts.
The other's Aeneas, claims Anchises' blood,
the noble Anchises, but his mother's Aphrodite.
Come, up you go in our chariot, give ground now!
No charging the front ranks—you might lose your life."
Diomedes -froze him with a glance:
"Not a word of retreat. You'll never persuade me.
It's not my nature to shrink from battle, cringe in fear
with the fighting strength still steady in my chest.
I shrink from mounting our chariot-no retreat-
on foot as I am, I'll meet them man-to-man.
Athena would never let me flinch. Those two?
Their horses will never sweep them clear of us,
not both men, though one or the other may escape.
One more thing—take it to heart, I tell you—
if part of Athena's plan gives me the honor
to kill them both, you check our racers here,
you lash them fast to our rails
then dash for Aeneas' horses—don't forget—
drive them out of the Trojan lines and into ours.
They are the very strain farseeing Zeus gave Tros,
payment in full for stealing Ganymede, Tros's son:
the purest, strongest breed of all the stallions
under the dawn and light of day. Lord Anchises
stole from that fine stock-behind Laomedon's back,
Tros's grandson and heir to Tros's teams—
he put some mares to the lusty stallions once
and they foaled him a run of six in his'royal house.
Four he kept for himself, to rear in his own stalls,
but the two you see in action he gave Aeneas,
both of them driving terrors. Would to god
we'd take them both—we'd win ourselves great fame."
Wavering back and
forth as their two attackers
closed in a rush, whipping that purebred team along
and Pandarus shouted first, "What mad bravado-
lofty Tydeus' boy will brave it out! So,
my arrow failed to bring you down, my tearing shot?
Now for a spear—we'll see if this can kill you!"
Shaft poised, he hurled
and its long shadow flew
and it struck Tydides' shield, the brazen spearhead
winging, drilling right on through to his breastplate,
Pandarus yelling over him wildly now, "You're hit
clean through the side! You won't last long, I'd say-
now the glory's mine!"
But never shaken,
staunch Diomedes shot back, "No hit you missed!
But the two of you will never quit this fight, I'd say,
till one of you drops and dies and gluts with blood
Ares who hacks at men behind his rawhide shield!"
With that he hurled
and Athena drove the shaft
and it split the archer's nose between the eyes—
it cracked his glistening teeth, the tough bronze
cut off his tongue at the roots, smashed his jaw
and the point came ripping out beneath his chin.
He pitched from his car, armor clanged against him,
a glimmering blaze of metal dazzling round his back—
the purebreds reared aside, hoofs pawing the air
and his life and power slipped away on the wind.
Aeneas sprang down
with his shield and heavy spear,
fearing the Argives might just drag away the corpse,
somehow, somewhere. Aeneas straddled the body-
proud in his fighting power like some lion-
shielded the corpse with spear and round buckler,
burning to kill off any man who met him face-to-face
and he loosed a bloodcurdling cry. Just as Diomedes
hefted a boulder in his hands, a tremendous feat—
no two men could hoist it, weak as men are now,
but all on his own he raised it high with ease,
flung it and struck Aeneas' thigh where the hipbone
turns inside the pelvis, the joint they call the cup-
it smashed the socket, snapped both tendons too
and the jagged rock tore back the skin in shreds.
The great fighter sank to his knees, bracing himself
with one strong forearm planted against the earth,
and the world went black as night before his eyes.
And now the prince,
the captain of men Aeneas
would have died on the spot if Zeus's daughter
had not marked him quickly, his mother Aphrodite
who bore him to King Anchises tending cattle once.
Round her beloved son her glistening arms went streaming,
flinging her shining robe before him, only a fold
but it blocked the weapons hurtling toward his body.
She feared some Argive fast with chariot-team
might hurl bronze in his chest and rip his life out.
She began to bear
her dear son from the fighting . . .
but Capaneus' son did not forget the commands
the lord of the war cry put him under. Sthenelus
checked his own racers clear of the crash of battle,
lashed them tight to his chariot-rails with reins
then dashed for Aeneas' glossy full-maned team
and drove them out of the Trojan lines and into his.
He passed them on to Deipylus, a friend-in-arms
he prized beyond all comrades his own age-
their minds worked as one-to drive to the ships
as Sthenelus mounted behind his own chariot now,
seized the glittering reins and whipped his team,
his strong-hoofed horses ahead at breakneck speed,
rearing, plunging to overtake his captain Diomedes
but he with his ruthless bronze was hunting Aphrodite-
Diomedes, knowing her for the coward goddess she is,
none of the mighty gods who marshal men to battle,
neither Athena nor Enyo raider of cities, not at all,
But once he caught her, stalking her through the onslaught,
gallant Tydeus' offspring rushed her, lunging out,
thrusting his sharp spear at her soft, limp wrist
and the brazen point went slashing through her flesh,
tearing straight 'through the fresh immortal robes
the Graces themselves had made her with their labor.
He gouged her just where the wristbone joins the palm
and immortal blood came flowing quickly from the goddess,
the ichor that courses through their veins, the blessed gods-
they eat no bread, they drink no shining wine, and so
the gods are bloodless, so we call them deathless.
A piercing shriek-she reeled and dropped her son.
But Phoebus Apollo plucked him up in his hands
and swathed him round in a swirling dark mist
for fear some Argive fast with chariot-team
might hurl bronze in his chest and rip his life out.
But Diomedes shouted after her, shattering war cries:
"Daughter of Zeus, give up the war, your lust for carnage!
So, it's not enough that you lure defenseless women
to their ruin? Haunting the fighting, are you?
Now I think you'll cringe at the hint of war
if you get wind of battle far away."
So he mocked
and the goddess fled the front, beside herself with pain.
But Iris quick as the wind took up her hand
and led her from the fighting ...
racked with agony, her glowing flesh blood-dark.
And off to the left of battle she discovered Ares,
violent Ares sitting there at ease, his long spear
braced on a cloudbank, flanked by racing stallions.
Aphrodite fell to her knees, over and over begged
her dear brother to lend his golden-bridled team:
"Oh dear brother, help me! Give me your horses-
so I can reach Olympus, the gods' steep stronghold.
I'm wounded, the pain's too much, a mortal's speared me—
that daredevil Diomedes, he'd fight Father Zeusl"
Her brother Ares
gave her the golden-bridled team.
Heart writhing in pain, she climbed aboard the car
and Iris climbed beside her, seized the reins,
whipped the team to a run and on the horses flew,
holding nothing back. In a moment they had reached
the immortals' stronghold, steep Olympus. Wind-quick Iris
curbed the team and loosing them from the chariot
threw ambrosial fodder down before their hoofs.
The deathless Aphrodite sank in Dione's lap
and her mother, folding her daughter in her arms,
stroked her gently, whispered her name and asked,
"Who has abused you now, dear child, tell me,
who of the sons of heaven so unfeeling, cruel?
Why, it's as if they had caught you in public,
doing something wrong. . . "
And Aphrodite who
loves eternal laughter
sobbed in answer, "The son of Tydeus stabbed me,
Diomedes, that overweening, insolent—all because
I was bearing off my son from the fighting. Aeneas—
dearest to me of all the men alive. Look down!
It's no longer ghastly war for Troy and Achaea-
now, I tell you, the Argives fight the gods!"
Dione the light and
loveliest of immortals
tried to calm her: "Patience, oh my child.
Bear up now, despite your heartsick grief.
How many gods who hold the halls of Olympus
have had to endure such wounds from mortal men,
whenever we try to cause each other pain ...
Ares had to endure it, when giant Ephialtes and Otus,
sons of Aloeus, bound him in chains he could not burst,
trussed him up in a brazen cauldron, thirteen months.
And despite the god's undying lust for battle
Ares might have wasted away there on the spot
if the monsters' stepmother, beautiful Eriboea
had not sent for Hermes, and out of the cauldron
Hermes stole him away-the War-god breathing his last,
all but broken down by the ruthless iron chains.
And Hera endured it too, that time Amphitryon's son,
mighty Heracles hit her deep in the right breast
with a three-barbed shaft, and pain seized her,
nothing calmed the pain.
Even tremendous Hades
had to endure that flying shaft like all the rest,
when the same man, the son of thunder-shielded Zeus,
shot him in Pylos—there with the troops of battle dead—
and surrendered Death to pain. But Hades made his way
to craggy Olympus, climbed to the house of Zeus,
stabbed with agony, grief-struck to the heart,
the shaft driven into his massive shoulder
grinding down his spirit . . .
But the Healer applied his pain-killing drugs
and sealed Hades' wound—he was not born to die.
Think of that breakneck Heracles, his violent work,
not a care in the world for all the wrongs he'd done-
he and his arrows raking the gods who hold Olympus!
But the man who attacked you? The great goddess
fiery-eyed Athena set him on, that fool-
Doesn't the son of Tydeus know, down deep,
the man who fights the gods does not live long?
Nor do his children ride his knees with cries of 'Father'—
home at last from the wars and heat of battle.
let Diomedes, powerful as he is, be on his guard
for fear a better soldier than you engage him-
for fear his wife, Aegialia, Adrastus' daughter,
for all her self-control, will wail through the nights
and wake her beloved servants out of sleep . . .
the gallant wife in tears, longing for him,
her wedded husband, the best of the Achaeans—
Diomedes breaker of horses."
and with both her hands Dione gently wiped the ichor
from Aphrodite's arm and her wrist healed at once,
her stark pain ebbed away.
But Hera and great Athena were looking on
and with mocking words began to provoke the Father,
Athena leading off with taunts, her eyes bright:
"Father Zeus, I wonder if you would fume at me
if I ventured a bold guess? Our goddess of love—
I'd swear she's just been rousing another Argive,
another beauty to pant and lust for Trojans,
those men the goddess loves to such despair.
Stroking one of the Argive women's rippling gowns
she's pricked her limp wrist on a golden pinpoint!"
So she mocked, and
the father of gods and mortals
smiled broadly, calling the golden Aphrodite over:
"Fighting is not for you, my child, the works of war.
See to the works of marriage, the slow fires of longing.
Athena and blazing Ares will deal with all the bloodshed."
And now as the high
gods bantered back and forth
Diomedes, loosing his war cry, charged Aeneas-
though what he saw was lord Apollo himself,
guarding, spreading his arms above the fighter,
but even before the mighty god he would not flinch.
Tydides reared and hurled himself again and again,
trying to kill Aeneas, strip his famous armor.
Three times he charged, frenzied to bring him down,
three times Apollo battered his gleaming shield back-
then at Tydides' fourth assault like something superhuman,
the Archer who strikes from worlds away shrieked out -
a voice of terror—"Think, Diomedes, shrink back now!
Enough of this madness-striving with the gods.
We are not of the same breed, we never will be,
the deathless gods and men who walk the earth."
that Tydeus' son pulled back, just a little, edging
clear of the distant deadly Archer's rage.
And Apollo swept Aeneas up from the onslaught
and set him down on the sacred heights of Pergamus,
the crest where the god's own temple had been built.
There in the depths of the dark forbidden chamber
Leto and Artemis who showers flights of arrows
healed the man and brought him back to glory.
But the lord of the silver bow devised a phantom-
like Aeneas to the life, wearing his very armor-
and round that phantom Trojans and brave Achaeans
went at each other, hacking the oxhides round their chests,
the bucklers full and round, skin-shields, tassels flying.
But Phoebus Apollo called to blazing Ares, "Ares, Ares,
destroyer of men, reeking blood, stormer of ramparts,
can't you go and drag that man from the fighting?
That daredevil Diomedes, he'd fight Father Zeus!
He's just assaulted Love, he stabbed her wrist
like something superhuman he even charged at me!"
With that,. Apollo
settled onto Pergamus heights
while murderous Ares, wading into the fighting,
spurred the Trojan columns on to mass attack.
Shaped like the runner Acamas, prince of Thrace,
Ares challenged the sons of Priam with a vengeance:
"You royal sons of Priam, monarch dear to the gods,
how long will you let Achaeans massacre your army?
Until they're battling round your well-built gates?
A man is down we prized on a par with noble Hector—
Aeneas, proud Anchises' son., Up with you now,
rescue him from the crash of battle! Save our comrade!"
As Ares whipped the
fighting spirit in each man
Sarpedon taunted Hector: "Hector, where has it gone-
that high courage you always carried in your heart?
No doubt you bragged that you could hold your city
without an army and Trojan allies—all on your own,
just with your sister's husbands and your brothers.
But where are they now? I look, I can't find one.
They cringe and cower like hounds circling a lion.
We-your allies here-we do your fighting for you.
And I myself, Hector, your ally-to-the-death,
a good long way I came from distant Lycia,
far from the Xanthus' rapids where I left
my loving wife, my baby son, great riches too,
the lasting envy of every needy neighbor.
And still I lead our Lycians into battle.
Myself? I chafe to face my man, full force,
though there's not a scrap of mine for looting here,
no cattle or gold the foe could carry off. But you,
you just stand there-don't even command the rest
to brace and defend their wives.
Beware the toils of war . . .
the mesh of the huge dragnet sweeping up the world,
before you're trapped, your enemies' prey and plunder—
soon they'll raze your sturdy citadel to the roots!
All this should obsess you, Hector, night and day.
You should be begging the men who lead your allies'
famous ranks to stand and fight for all they're worth—
you'll ward off all the blame they hurl against you."
charge cut Hector to the core.
Down he leapt from his chariot fully armed, hit the ground
and brandishing two sharp spears went striding down his lines,
ranging flank to flank, driving his fighters into battle,
rousing grisly war—and round the Trojans whirled,
bracing to meet the Argives face-to-face:
but the Argives closed ranks, did not cave in.
Remember the wind that scatters the dry chaff,
sweeping it over the sacred threshing floor,
the men winnowing hard and blond Demeter culling
grain from dry husk in the rough and gusting wind
and under it all the heaps of chaff are piling white . . .
so white the Achaeans turned beneath the dust storm now,
pelting across their faces, kicked up by horses' hoofs
to the clear bronze sky-the battle joined again.
Charioteers swung chariots round,
thrust the powerful fist of fury straight ahead
and murderous Ares keen to help the Trojans
shrouded the carnage over in dense dark night-
lunging at all points, carrying out the commands
of Phoebus Apollo, lord of the golden sword,
who ordered Ares to whip the Trojans' war-lust
once he spotted Athena veering off the lines,
great Pallas who'd rushed to back the Argives.
Out of his rich guarded chamber the god himself
launched Aeneas now, driving courage into his heart
and the captain took his place amidst his men.
And how they thrilled to see him still alive,
safe, unharmed and marching back to their lines,
his soul ablaze for war, but his men asked him nothing.
The labor of battle would not let them, more labor urged
by the god of the silver bow and man-destroying Ares
and Strife flaring on, headlong on.
The two Aeantes, Tydides and Odysseus spurred them
on to attack. The troops themselves had no fear,
no dread of the Trojans' power and breakneck charges,
no, they stood their ground like heavy thunderheads
stacked up on the towering mountaintops by Cronus' son,
stock-still in a windless calm when the raging North Wind
and his gusty ripping friends that had screamed down
to rout dark clouds have fallen dead asleep. So staunch
they stood the Trojan onslaught, never shrinking once
as Atrides ranged the ranks, shouting out commands:
"Now be men, my friends! Courage, come, take heart!
Dread what comrades say of you here in bloody combat!
When men dread that, more men come through alive—
when soldiers break and run, good-bye glory,
good-bye all defenses!"
A f'ash, a sudden hurl
and Atrides speared a champion out in front—
it was Prince Aeneas' comrade-in-arms Deicoon,
Pergasus' son the Trojans prized like Priam's sons,
quick as he always was to join the forward ranks.
Now his shield took powerful Agamemnon's spear
but failed to deflect it, straight through it smashed,
bronze splitting his belt and plunging down his guts—
he fell, thundering, armor ringing against him.
Aeneas replied in kind and killed two Argive captains,
Diocles' two sons, Orsilochus flanking Crethon.
Their father lived in the fortress town of Phera,
a man of wealth and worth, born of Alpheus River
running wide through Pylian hills, the stream
that sired Ortilochus to rule their many men.
Ortilochus sired Diocles, that proud heart,
and Diocles bred Orsilochus twinned with Crethon
drilled for any fight. And reaching their prime
they joined the Argives sailing the black ships
outward bound for the stallion-land of Troy,
all for the sons of Atreus,
to fight to the end and win their honor back-
so death put an end to both, wrapped them both in night.
Fresh as two young lions off on the mountain ridges,
twins reared by a lioness deep in the dark glades,
that ravage shepherds' steadings, mauling the cattle
and fat sheep till it's their turn to die-hacked down
by the cleaving bronze blades in the shepherds' hands.
So here the twins were laid low at Aeneas' hands,
down they crashed like lofty pine trees axed.
but Menelaus pitied them both, yes, and out for blood
he burst through the front, helmed in fiery bronze,
shaking his spear, and Ares' fury drove him, Ares
hoping to see him crushed at Aeneas' hands.
Antilochus marked him now, great Nestor's son
went racing across the front himself, terrified
for the lord of armies—what if he were killed?
Their hard campaigning just might come to grief.
As Aeneas and Menelaus came within arm's reach,
waving whetted spears in each other's faces,
nerved to fight it out, Antilochus rushed in,
tensing shoulder-to-shoulder by his captain now-
and Aeneas shrank from battle, fast as he was in arms,
when he saw that pair of fighters side-by-side,
standing their ground against him . . .
Once they'd dragged the bodies back to their lines
they dropped the luckless twins in companions' open arms
and round they swung again to fight in the first ranks.
And next they killed
Pylaemenes tough as Ares,
a captain heading the Paphlagonian shieldsmen,
hot-blooded men. Menelaus the famous spearman
stabbed him right where he stood, the spearpoint
pounding his collarbone to splinters. Antilochus
killed his charioteer and steady henchman Mydon,
Atymnius' strapping son, just wheeling his racers round
as Antilochus winged a rock and smashed his elbow-
out of his grip the reins white with ivory flew
and slipped to the ground and tangled in the dust.
Antilochus sprang, he plunged a sword in his temple
and Mydon, gasping, hurled from his bolted car facefirst,
head and shoulders stuck in a dune a good long time
for the sand was soft and deep—his lucky day—
till his own horses trampled him down, down flat
as Antilochus lashed them hard and drove them back
to Achaea's waiting ranks.
But Hector marked them
across the lines and rushed them now with a cry
and Trojan shock troops backed him full strength.
And Ares led them in with the deadly Queen Enyo
bringing Uproar on, the savage chaos of battle—
the god of combat wielding his giant shaft in hand,
now ranging ahead of Hector, now behind him.
and for all his war cries Diomedes shrank at the sight,
as a man at a loss, helpless, crossing a vast plain
halts short at a river rapids surging out to sea,
takes one look at the water roaring up in foam
and springs back with a leap. So he recoiled,
shouting out to comrades, "Oh my friends,
what fools we were to marvel at wondrous Hector,
what a spearman, we said, and what a daring fighter!
But a god goes with him always, beating off disaster—
look, that's Ares beside him now, just like a mortal!
Give ground, but faces fronting the Trojans always—
no use trying to fight the gods in force."
So he warned
as the Trojans charged them, harder-and Hector, lunging,
leveled a pair of men who knew the joy of battle,
riding a single chariot, Menesthes and Anchialus.
Down they went and the Great Ajax pitied both,
he strode to their side and loomed there,
loosed a gleaming spear and struck down Amphius,
Selagus' son who had lived at ease in Paesus,
rich in possessions, rich in rolling wheatland ...
But destiny guided Amphius on, a comrade sworn
to the cause of Priam and all of Priam's sons.
Now giant Ajax speared him through the belt,
deep in the guts the long, shadowy shaft stuck
and down he fell with a crash as glorious Ajax rushed
to strip his armor—Trojans showering spears against him,
points glittering round him, his shield taking repeated hits.
He dug his heel in the corpse, yanked his own bronze out
but as for the dead man's burnished gear-no hope.
The giant was helpless to rip it off his back.
Enemy weapons beating against him, worse,
he dreaded the Trojans too, swarming round him,
a tough ring of them, brave and bristling spears,
massing, rearing over their comrade's body now
and rugged, strong and proud as the Great Ajax was,
they shoved him back—he gave ground, staggering, reeling.
So fighters worked
away in the grim shocks of war.
And Heracles' own son, Tlepolemus tall and staunch . . .
his strong fate was driving him now against Sarpedon,
a man like a god. Closing quickly, coming head-to-head
the son and the son's son of Zeus who marshals storms,
Tlepolemus opened up to taunt his enemy first:
"Sarpedon, master strategist of the Lycians,
what compels you to cringe and cower here?
You raw recruit, green at the skills of battle!
They lie when they say you're born of storming Zeus.
Look at yourself. How short you fall of the fighters
sired by Zeus in the generations long before us!
Why, think what they say of mighty Heracles-
there was a man, my father,
that dauntless, furious spirit, that lionheart.
He once sailed here for Laomedon's blooded horses,
with just six ships and smaller crews than yours, true,
but he razed the walls of Troy, he widowed all her streets.
You with your coward's heart, your men dying round you!
You're no bulwark come out of Lycia, I can tell you—
no help to Trojans here. For all your power, soldier,
crushed at my hands you'll breach the gates of Death!"
But Sarpedon the
Lycian captain faced him down:
"Right you are, Tlepolemus! Your great father
destroyed the sacred heights of Troy, thanks,
of course, to a man's stupidity, proud Laomedon.
That fool—he rewarded all his kindness with abuse,
never gave him the mares he'd come so far to win.
But the only thing you'll win at my hands here,
I promise you, is slaughter and black doom.
Gouged by my spear you'll give me glory now,
you'll give your life to the famous horseman Death!"
In fast reply
Tlepolemus raised his ashen spear
and the same moment shafts flew from their hands
and Sarpedon hit him square across the neck,
the spear went ramming through-pure agony-
black night came swirling down across his eyes.
But Tlepolemus' shaft had struck Sarpedon too,
the honed tip of the weapon hitting his left thigh,
ferocious, razoring into flesh and scraping bone
but his Father beat off death a little longer.
his loyal comrades bore him out of the fighting quickly,
weighed down by the heavy spearshaft dragging on.
But hurrying so, no one noticed or even thought
to wrench the ashen javelin from his thigh
so the man could hobble upright. On they rushed,
bent on the work of tending to his body.
far across the lines the armed Achaeans hauled him
out of the fight, and seasoned Odysseus saw it,
his brave spirit steady, ablaze for action now.
What should he do?-he racked his heart and soul-
lunge at Prince Sarpedon, son of storming Zeus,
or go at the Lycians' mass and kill them all?
But no, it was not the gallant Odysseus' fate
to finish Zeus's rugged son with his sharp bronze,
so Pallas swung his fury against the Lycian front.
Whirling, killing Coeranus, Chromius and Alastor,
killing Alcander and Halius, Prytanis and Noemon-
and stalwart Odysseus would have killed still more
but tall Hector, his helmet flashing, marked him quickly,
plowed through the front, helmed in fiery bronze,
filling the Argives' hearts with sudden terror.
And Zeus's son Sarpedon rejoiced to see him
striding past and begged him in his pain,
"Son of Priam, don't leave me lying here,
such easy prey for the Danaans-protect me!
Later I'll bleed to death inside your walls.
Clearly it's not my fate
to journey home again to the fatherland I love,
to bring some joy to my dear wife, my baby son."
his helmet flashing, answered nothing-he swept past him,
Hector burning to thrust the Argives back at once
and tear the life and soul out of whole battalions.
But Sarpedon's loyal comrades laid him down,
a man like a god beneath a fine spreading oak
sacred to Zeus whose shield is banked with clouds.
The veteran Pelagon, one of his closest aides,
pushed the shaft of ashwood out through his wound—
his spirit left him-a mist poured down his eyes . . .
but he caught his breath again. A gust of the North Wind
blowing round him carried back the life breath
he had gasped away in pain.
But the Argive fighters?
Facing Ares' power and Hector helmed in bronze,
they neither turned and ran for their black ships
nor traded blows with enemies man-to-man.
Backing over and over, the Argives gave ground,
seeing the lord of battles lead the Trojan onset.
Who was the first
they slaughtered, who the last,
the brazen god of war and Hector son of Priam?
Teuthras first, Orestes lasher of stallions next,
an Aetolian spearman Trechus, Oenomaus and Helenus,
Oenops' son, and Oresbius cinched with shining belt
who had lived in Hyle hoarding his great wealth,
his estate aslope the shores of Lake Cephisus,
and round him Boeotians held the fertile plain.
But soon as the
white-armed goddess Hera saw them
mauling Argive units caught in the bloody press,
she winged her words at Pallas: "What disaster!
Daughter of storming Zeus, tireless one, Athena-
how hollow our vow to Menelaus that he would sack
the mighty walls of Troy before he sailed for home-
if we let murderous Ares rampage on this way. Up now,
set our minds on our own fighting-fury!"
and goddess Athena, her eyes afire, could not resist.
Hera queen of the gods, daughter of giant Cronus,
launched the work, harnessed the golden-bridled team
and Hebe quickly rolled the wheels to the chariot,
paired wheels with their eight spokes all bronze,
and bolted them on at both ends of the iron axle.
Fine wheels with fellies of solid, deathless gold
and round them running rims of bronze clamped fast—
a marvel to behold! The silver hubs spin round
on either side of the chariot's woven body,
gold and silver lashings strapping it tight,
double rails sweeping along its deep full curves
and the yoke-pole jutting forward, gleaming silver.
There at the tip she bound the gorgeous golden yoke,
she fastened the gorgeous golden breast straps next
and under the yoke Queen Hera led the horses, racers
blazing for war and the piercing shrieks of battle.
Then Athena, child
of Zeus whose shield is thunder,
letting fall her supple robe at the Father's threshold—
rich brocade, stitched with her own hands' labor—
donned the battle-shirt of the lord of lightning,
buckled her breastplate geared for wrenching war
and over her shoulders slung her shield, all tassels
flaring terror-Panic mounted high in a crown around it,
Hate and Defense across it, Assault to freeze the blood
and right in their midst the Gorgon's monstrous head,
that rippling dragon horror, sign of storming Zeus.
Then over her brows Athena placed her golden helmet
fronted with four knobs and forked with twin horns,
engraved with the fighting men of a hundred towns.
Then onto the flaming chariot Pallas set her feet
and seized her spear-weighted, heavy, the massive shaft
she wields to break the battle lines of heroes
the mighty Father's daughter storms against.
A crack of the
the goddess Hera lashed the team, and all on their own force
the gates of heaven thundered open, kept by the Seasons,
guards of the vaulting sky and Olympus heights empowered
to spread the massing clouds or close them round once more.
Now straight through the great gates she drove the team,
whipping them on full tilt until they came to Zeus
the son of Cronus sitting far from the other gods,
throned on the topmost crag of rugged ridged Olympus.
And halting her horses near, the white-armed Hera
called out at once to the powerful son of Cronus,
pressing home her questions: "Father Zeus, look—
aren't you incensed at Ares and all his brutal work?
Killing so many brave Achaeans for no good reason,
not a shred of decency, just to wound my heart!
While there they sit at their royal ease, exulting,
the goddess of love and Apollo lord of the silver bow:
they loosed this manic Ares—he has no sense of justice.
Father Zeus . . . I wonder if you would fume at me
if I hurled a stunning blow at the god of war
and drove him from the fighting?"
who marshals ranks of storm clouds gave commands,
"Leap to it then. Launch Athena against him-
the queen of plunder, she's the one—his match,
a marvel at bringing Ares down in pain."
So he urged and the
white-armed goddess Hera
obeyed at once. And again she lashed her team
and again the stallions flew, holding nothing back,
careering between the earth and starry skies as far
as a man's glance can pierce the horizon's misting haze,
a scout on a watchtower who scans the wine-dark sea—
so far do the soaring, thundering horses of the gods
leap at a single stride. And once they reached
the plains of Troy where the two rivers flow,
where Simois and Scamander rush together,
the white-armed goddess Hera reined her team,
loosing them from the chariot-yoke and round them
poured' a dense shrouding mist and before their hoofs
the Simois sprang ambrosial grass for them to graze.
The two immortals
stepped briskly as wild doves,
quivering, keen to defend the fighting men of Argos.
Once they gained the spot where the most and bravest stood,
flanking strong Diomedes breaker of wild stallions—
massed like a pride of lions tearing raw flesh
or ramping boars whose fury never flags—
the white-armed goddess Hera rose and shouted
loud as the brazen voice of great-lunged Stentor
who cries out with the blast of fifty other men,
"Shame! Disgrace! You Argives, you degraded-
splendid in battle dress, pure sham!
As long as brilliant Achilles stalked the front
no Trojan would ever venture beyond the Dardan Gates,
they were so afraid of the man's tremendous spear.
Now they're fighting far away from the city,
right by your hollow ships!"
So Hera trumpeted,
lashing the nerve and fighting-fury in each man
as Athena, her eyes blazing, made for Diomedes.
Hard by his team and car she found the king,
cooling the wound that Pandarus' arrow dealt him.
Sweat from under the heavy buckler's flat strap
had rubbed him raw, he was chafed and his arm ached
from lifting up the strap, wiping off the blood
and the dark clots. Laying hold of the yoke
that bound his team, the goddess Pallas started,
"So, Tydeus' son is half the size of his father,
and he was short and slight-but Tydeus was a fighter!
Even then, when I forbade him to go to war
or make a show of himself in others' eyes ...
that time, alone, apart from his men, he marched
the message into Thebes, filled with hordes of Thebans,
I told him to banquet in their halls and eat in peace.
But he always had that power, that courage from the first—
and so he challenged the brave young blades of Thebes
to tests of strength and beat them all with ease,
I urged him on with so much winning force.
But you, Tydides, I stand by you as well,
I guard you too. And with all good will I say,
fight it out with the Trojans here! But look at you-
fatigue from too much charging has sapped your limbs,
that or some lifeless fear has paralyzed you now.
So you're no offspring of Tydeus,
the gallant, battle-hardened Oeneus' son!"
Diomedes bowed to her at once:
"Well I know you, Goddess, daughter of storming Zeus,
and so I will tell you all, gladly. I'll hide nothing.
It's not some lifeless fear that paralyzes me now,
no flinching from combat either.
It's your own command still ringing in my ears,
forbidding me to fight the immortals head-on,
all but one of the blessed gods, that is—
if Aphrodite daughter of Zeus slips into battle,
she's the one to stab with my sharp bronze spear.
So now, you see, I have given ground myself
and told my comrades to mass around me here.
Too well I know that Ares leads the charge."
But the goddess
roused him on, her eyes blazing:
"True son of Tydeus, Diomedes, joy of my heart!
Forget the orders-nothing to fear, my friend,
neither Ares nor any other god. You too,
I'll urge you on with so much winning force.
Up now! Lash your racing horses at Ares first,
strike him at close range, no shrinking away here
before that headlong Ares! Just look at the maniac,
born for disaster, double-dealing, lying two-faced god-
just now he promised me and Hera, the War-god swore
he'd fight the Trojans, stand behind the Argives.
But now, look, he's leading the Trojan rampage,
his pledges thrown to the winds!"
With that challenge
Athena levered Sthenelus out the back of the car.
A twist of her wrist and the man hit the ground,
springing aside as the goddess climbed aboard,
blazing to fight beside the shining Diomedes.
The big oaken axle groaned beneath the weight,
bearing a great man and a terrifying goddess-
and Pallas Athena seized the reins and whip,
lashing the racing horses straight at Ares.
The god was just stripping giant Periphas bare,
the Aetolians' best fighter, Ochesius' noble son-
the blood-smeared Ares was tearing off his gear
but Athena donned the dark helmet of Death
so not even stark Ares could see her now.
But the butcher did see Tydeus' rugged son
and he dropped gigantic Periphas on the spot
where he'd just killed him, ripped his life away
and Ares whirled at the stallion-breaking Diomedes—
the two of them closing fast, charging face-to-face
and the god thrust first, over Tydides' yoke and reins,
with bronze spear burning to take the fighter's life.
But Athena, her eyes afire, grabbed the flying shaft,
flicked it over the car and off it flew for nothing—
and after him Diomedes yelled his war cry, lunging out
with his own bronze spear and Pallas rammed it home,
deep in Ares' bowels where the belt cinched him tight.
There Diomedes aimed and stabbed, he gouged him down
his glistening flesh and wrenched the spear back out
and the brazen god of war let loose a shriek, roaring,
thundering loud as nine, ten thousand combat soldiers
shriek with Ares' fury when massive armies clash.
A shudder swept all ranks, Trojans and Argives both,
terror-struck by the shriek the god let loose,
Ares whose lust for slaughter never dies.
wild as a black cyclone twisting out of a cloudbank,
building up from the day's heat, blasts and towers-
so brazen Ares looked to Tydeus' son Diomedes.
Soaring up with the clouds to the broad sweeping sky
he quickly gained the gods' stronghold, steep Olympus,
and settling down by the side of Cronus' great son Zeus,
his spirit racked with pain, Ares displayed the blood,
the fresh immortal blood that gushed from his wound,
and burst out in a flight of self-pity: "Father Zeus,
aren't you incensed to see such violent brutal work?
We everlasting gods . . . Ah what chilling blows
we suffer-thanks to our own conflicting wills-
whenever we show these mortal men some kindness.
And we all must battle you—
you brought that senseless daughter into the world,
that murderous curse-forever bent on crimes!
While all the rest of us, every god on Olympus
bows down to you, each of us overpowered.
But that girl—
you never block her way with a word or action, never,
you spur her on, since you, you gave her birth
from your own head, that child of devastation!
Just look at this reckless Diomedes now—
Athena spurred him on to rave against the gods.
First he lunges at Aphrodite, stabs her hand at the wrist
then charges me—even me—like something superhuman!
But I, I'm so fast on my feet I saved my life.
Else for a good long while I'd have felt the pain,
writhing among the corpses there, or soldiered on,
weak as a breathless ghost, beaten down by bronze."
But Zeus who
marshals storm clouds lowered a dark glance
and let loose at Ares: "No more, you lying, two-faced ...
no more sidling up to me, whining here before me.
You—I hate you most of all the Olympian gods.
Always dear to your heart,
strife, yes, and battles, the bloody grind of war.
You have your mother's uncontrollable rage-incorrigible,
that Hera—say what I will, I can hardly keep her down.
Hera's urgings, I trust,' have made you suffer this.
But I cannot bear to see you agonize so long.
You are my child. To me your mother bore you.
If you had sprung from another god, believe me,
and grown into such a blinding devastation,
long ago you'd have dropped below the Titans,
deep in the dark pit."
So great Zeus declared
and ordered the healing god to treat the god of war.
And covering over his wound with pain-killing drugs
the Healer cured him: the god was never born to die.
Quickly as fig-juice, pressed into bubbly, creamy milk,
curdles it firm for the man who churns it round,
so quickly he healed the violent rushing Ares.
And Hebe washed him clean, dressed him in robes
to warm his heart, and flanking the son of Cronus
down he sat, Ares exultant in the glory of it all.
And now the two
returned to the halls of mighty Zeus—
Hera of Argos, Boeotian Athena, guard of armies, both
had stopped the murderous Ares' cutting men to pieces.